President William Ruto on Thursday reiterated his bullish optimism about the end of the opposition-led protests over the cost of living and the distribution of government jobs, saying they will suffer the same fate as the 'crushed' Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which he vehemently opposed.
While sidestepping issues raised by Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga on an aborted mediation bid by Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, President Ruto said he was willing to negotiate on everything else but not the security of the nation and its people.
“We must all agree on this one thing: Making our nation secure. We cannot negotiate on that. Everything else, we can negotiate; political affiliations and preferences and all these other things, but not security. And you know, I told you then that God will help us to stop reggae (BBI), and it stopped. I have also said we will stop these demonstrations, and they have. We cannot continue with such destruction of property and loss of lives,” he said in Lamu on Thursday.
BBI, a constitutional process spearheaded by Mr Odinga and retired President Uhuru Kenyatta, was thrown out by the Supreme Court for what the apex court said was not following set laws in the Constitution by having the then Head of State as the initiator.
President Ruto has often described BBI as a “big con” sugar-coated to hoodwink Kenyans.
“BBI was a 'criminal' undertaking. I'm not bringing it back. The Supreme Court ruled that the President cannot start that initiative,” said Dr Ruto early this year.
On Thursday, President Ruto issued a stern warning to goons and other individuals who he said were hiding behind the protests to attack the police.
He said attacking the security is similar to attacking the Republic of Kenya and the Constitution, adding that such incidents will be met with the full force of the law.
President Ruto said over 300 police officers are admitted in various hospitals across the country nursing serious injuries after being attacked during the protests.
He thanked the Lamu people for desisting from partaking in the demonstrations and instead, focussing on building the nation and adhering to peace.
On the matter of devolution, President Ruto said he is committed to ensuring counties are fully empowered, adding that he will be releasing Sh32 billion for all the 47 counties.
“My administration fully supports devolution because we know what devolution can do for this country. The previous regime used to delay cash for counties. I am the contrary. I have already paid counties their dues. In fact, today (Thursday), I am releasing Sh32 billion for all the 47 counties of the Republic of Kenya for this month. I want county governors to be independent while doing development at the grassroots,” said Dr Ruto.
The head of State, however, cautioned governors against using such funds to organise maandamano.
On matters of cash transfers, President Ruto issued a new mode of payment saying such money should be given to the beneficiaries every month.
“We want to be a caring country and society. So, the cash transfer beneficiaries including the elderly, orphans, the disabled people and the rest must be paid their monthly stipend earlier before other public servants, including the President is paid. There shall be no delays,” said Dr Ruto.
Touching on subsidised fertiliser, he said the government plans to reduce the price further from the current Sh3,500 to Sh2,500 so that as many farmers as possible can access.
He said the only way that the country can rescue itself from the high cost of living and hunger is through serious farming.
He said the government was also in the process of commercialising the Lamu Port to enable it fully compete as a second largest port in Kenya.
“From next week, we shall be announcing an international tender to ensure Lamu port operates fully and create more employment for youth, hence, fighting poverty,” said Mr Ruto.
Lamu Governor Issa Timamy also praised the Lamu people for maintaining peace and avoiding maandamano.
He pledged to cooperate with the national government to ensure development is undertaken in his county.
Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Sharif also appealed to President Ruto to ensure counties are fully empowered.
“It’s important we change the narrative on how we should empower counties to be able to stand on their own. It will be a legacy you will leave behind President Ruto that counties are able to stand on their own,” said Mr Sharif.
Others who were in attendance are Blue Economy Cabinet Secretary Salim Mvurya, his Interior counterpart Kithure Kindiki, Aisha Jumwa of Public Service, senators, MPs and MCAs.
During the visit, President Ruto opened the Sh214 million county commissioner’s office and headquarters at Mokowe and also offered a Sh65 million cheque for the fishing community in the area.